An Awesome Habitation Moment From Last Night...
As we're crossing the auditorium on our way out to go home, Anthony sees Zach Neese saying good-bye to someone he was speaking with. We walk up and when Zach sees Anthony, he gets this big smile and says, "Anthony", and gives him a hug. I later learned, through conversation with Anthony, that when Zach said his name it was overwhelming to him. He told me that Zach said it like he was expecting him. It made him immediately feel welcomed. I don't think I've ever heard someone describe something like that before; yet I can understand the heart of it. And I wondered if I've ever made someone's heart leep with an expected welcomeness like that even when they knew I wasn't expecting them. Not wondered in a selfish way, either. Zach oozes a genuineness and sincerity that is so thick you can almost reach out and touch it. His demeanor makes me wonder if that's what it would be like to meet Jesus. Seriously. That's what that moment reminded me of. He says your name and it's like receiving a hug without arms.
Anyway. That's not what I was intending to write about. But I guess it was important enough for God to put it at the front of my brain. Maybe to remind me what true humility and meekness of character looks like in today's world???
So we're talking with Zach and he shares a story that made my spirit leap. Just a couple weeks ago, Pastor Robert's assistant somehow contracted E-Coli and fell critically ill; ending up in the ICU. Although she was prayed for, had hands laid on her, was anointed with oil and lifted up by thousands at Gateway, she ultimately went home to be with Jesus just a week after getting sick. It was a shocking and unexpected death to all who knew her.
Last weekend during worship, Zach spoke of his struggle to understand why God heals some and not others. And ultimately admitted that understanding the answer this side of heaven was probably not gonna happen.
Somehow our conversation was steered toward this issue and he says, rather nonchalantly but with plenty of purpose, "Yeah. It was hard especially since me and a couple guys even prayed over her casket for her to rise from the dead." WHAT??? Who does this in America? Well, apparently Zack and some friends of his do! I wanted to shout "AMEN!" but tried to calm my leaping spirit so I could pay attention to the rest of his story.
He then goes on to share that he knew that God had told him to pray over her casket. He just knew. He didn't doubt God's request at all. And he was fully expecting her to sit up and crawl out of the casket. When the miracle didn't happen, Zach didn't ask God "if he had really heard him", which most people would tend to wonder, even if only for a few minutes. He asked him why she didn't come back to life.
Zach shared that he knew in his spirit that God had been 'reasoning' with Judy, in that moment, about whether or not she wanted to come back. It turns out she didn't. God was fully willing to breath life back into her lifeless body. But instead he allowed her to stay in heaven because it was what she wanted. And Zach shared this knowing that she made it because not only was she in the place that she always longed to be (as we all should) but she could see her family that was left here and knew that they were going to be okay, so (as he says) why wouldn't she choose to stay with Jesus? [like ... duh]
I asked Zach (kind of knowing the answer) why he thought God would ask him to pray for Judy to be raised from the dead if he didn't intend to bring her back? His words? "To see if I would obey. To see if I would be willing to radically obey even if it made me look foolish to other people."
Radical Obedience just took on a whole other meaning for me thanks to Zach.